|Queens speech and busy at Tooting|
|Monday, 20 November 2006 15:53|
The last two weeks have been very busy with a Queen's Speech and loads happening
in and around Tooting
The highlights of the Queen’s Speech were the proposed items of legislation in connection with Climate Change, Pensions and Further Education. The Climate Change Bill will put the Government’s long-term target to reduce carbon emissions by 60% by 2050 into legislative form and proposals should be published in the New Year. The Pensions Bill will reform the state pension and also re-establish the link with earnings during the next Parliament. I also welcome the Concessionary Bus Travel Bill, which will ensure that everyone aged 60 and over and all disabled people will receive free off-peak local bus travel from April 2008. The Further Education and Training Bill will enhance opportunities to obtain further education particularly for young people. At the heart of the Queen’s Speech were further measures to strengthen security. The new Criminal Justice Bill will attempt to tip the scales of justice in favour of the victim; the Offender Management Bill will tackle the management of offenders both while they are in custody and once they have returned to the community and the Organised Crime Bill will introduce new powers to enable the police to prevent serious organised crime.
I also attended a pre legislative scrutiny session on a Draft Coroners Bill. The new Bill will improve the way the system serves the public interest and meet bereaved families' concerns. Families will have new rights through anew complaints and appeals system, a proper appointments system for coroners will be established and there will be a national structure for coroners' work. I listened in to the panel of bereaved relatives who were taking part in the process to give their comments on the draft Bill. The DCA and Harriet Harman, in particular, deserve huge praise for the pioneering way legislation is being made in this very important area.
I met with the new High Commissioner from the UK to Pakistan, Robert Brinkley to discuss bilateral relations between our two countries. Tony Blair has just been to Pakistan. I was very pleased that on his trip he announced a doubling of developmental aid for Pakistan to £480 million over the next three years. I was also very pleased that the lobbying undertaken by a number of Parliamentarians, including myself, Prince Charles, our Government and many other concerned groups and individuals led to the Pakistan Government deciding not to proceed with the death penalty for Mirza Tahir Hussain, a British citizen who was convicted in 1989 for the murder of a taxi driver. Mr Hussain, who has now been allowed to return to the UK, has persistently stressed that he was acting in self-defence.
I attended the Annual Act of Remembrance at the War memorial in Battersea Park. Reverend David Gillam of Battersea Central Methodist Mission conducted a moving service. I found the two local girls who read poetry to be particularly moving.
On Sunday, I had the misfortune to go to the great new Arsenal Stadium, the Emirates stadium, to watch Liverpool lose to Arsenal 3-0. It was a great day, I am sure for Arsenal fans as Spurs had lost immediately before our game to Reading! Unfortunately, the result was a true reflection of the gap between the two teams on the day.
One of the campaigns I have been actively involved in since May 2005, has been for improvements to Earlsfield Station. The Government has recently announced that, as a result of my campaign to highlight the unacceptable lack of facilities for passengers who are elderly, disabled or young mothers, Earlsfield will be among those stations to receive part of the £370 million Access For All funding. I am really pleased that the campaign has achieved this success and am looking forward to witnessing the improvements being made to the station in the near future. For more details on the campaign, please click here.
I attended an expert roundtable organised by influential think tank, IPPR (for more details of their work please click here) on "Identity and the challenges of the diversity project."
I also attended a launch event by UNISON on the report published by a delegation that visited Bangladesh. The report is fascinating and is called "Seeing Bangladesh". I learnt that this is part of a project to connect with Bangladesh and the Bengali diaspora in London. It shows that unions are active and relevant in Bangladesh, the same way they are in the UK.
I also took part in a Franco-British debate and had a meeting with the chairwoman of the French High Council for Integration, Mrs Kriegal, who is also an advisor to President Chirac. On the same day I made a speech to the Parliamentary Assembly: The Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population, which contained parliamentarians from all over the Council of Europe.
Other events I have attended included the Labour Friends of India Annual Lunch, where Margaret Beckett MP was the main speaker; the Spectator Parliamentarian of the Year Awards; the Wandsworth Council Annual Civic Reception; the Green Guardian Awards for South London and the Diwali celebrations at the Civic Suite.
I have also had my usual advice surgeries and been out canvassing with local Labour Party members and Councillors.
Two of the highlights over the last couple of weeks have been the process of judging the winners of my Christmas Card competition (more to follow later!) and the Upper School Presentation at Graveney School. The energy, enthusiasm and excellence of the students was very impressive. All the staff, parents, governors and students deserve huge praise for the dedication they clearly have to the school and the local community. Particular mention must be given to Mr Graham Stapleton, the Principal, who has been at the school for more than 35 years and whose enthusiasm in the students is as high as ever. I had to make a short speech which was more difficult than usual as I was worried about being upstaged by the students whose brilliant speeches had preceded mine!
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